Honk if you’re an ass

assIn case you are aghast at that title, I am using the term ‘ass’ — in part — in the same way you would find the word used in several publications, even the Bible. In fact, asses are all over the place in the Bible – there was at least one in the stable when Jesus was born. Ass is of course another term for a donkey.

When you think of the sound a donkey makes, it is loud and obnoxious and likely unnecessary, but the donkey honks anyways, a noise also known as braying. Which brings me to my topic.

What is your personality type while driving? Are you a Type C (mellow, taking your time), Type B (going with the flow, keeping your cool), Type A (aggressive and uptight and often driving unsafely and using the horn as a second language) or a Type D (an unhappy hater who lays on the horn and spreads miseray). Funny, but even some Type B’s and even Type C’s can turn into Type A’s or Type D’s when they’re behind a wheel and encased in what seems like the safety of steel. Perhaps they’re running late, or maybe driving brings out the jerk in them — we all have a jerk inside otherwise known as the ego, driven by wanting to be first and also driven out of fear, as in being late for work.

Congress at duskCity living is generally a noisy lifestyle. There is an almost continuous barrage of loud noises, few of them pleasant and some that we’ve been warned can even cause hearing loss. A savvy person who wishes to keep their hearing intact will hold their ears as sirens pass by.

Some noises are hard to avoid, though, like when a truck backs up in your alley with that piercing back-up beeping sound in the middle of the night. Ear plugs can come in handy at such times; though they may not completely block the noise, they can reduce the damage and disturbance.

City dwellers accept this as a part of their chosen lifestyle, taking the good with the bad, because the city has so much to offer, and some people love to live right in the midst of it, a lifestyle that can is convenient as well as exciting. What is unfortunate is that on a gorgeous day of fresh wafting air (yes, even in the city), opening the windows can invite all this ruckus into one’s living space. It’s frustrating as well to have to interrupt what one is doing to shut the windows, which hopefully are soundproof.

A gorgeous Chicago day last summer comes to mind. Living nearby Grant Park, windows all flung open wide, one could catch a hint of the crab apple blossoms carried on the breeze. At the same time, an event was taking place in Grant Park. Toward the end of the day when everyone hopped in their vehicles to drive home, the noise from all the honking became almost intolerable. And why? Because of asses!

You can expect, when hundreds of people leave an event at the same time, to be sitting in traffic for a while. This is a given. And if it’s a gorgeous summer afternoon and everyone around you is gridlocked too, why would anyone with any intelligence or logic bother to honk, much less lay on the horn?!

20141110_163125Think about it: Honking is especially stupid in such a situation because it makes no sense: It doesn’t speed up the process. What it does do is irritate the police traffic director, if there is one. The unpleasant sound of someone laying on the horn is an unnecessary stressor to everyone within hearing range. It startles nearby pedestrians. The blare travels into the windows of close-by buildings where hundreds of people live and impacts their lives negatively, robbing them of the peace and quiet one should be able to enjoy in one’s own home.

Like ripples on water, if you honk in this scenario, you are essentially making the world a worse place to live. Is that your intent? Then you are an ass! You are feeding your own frustration like a glutton in a hot dog eating contest.

Do you really want to make this world a worse place to live? If not, then better yourself: next time you get behind the wheel, retrain yourself to refrain from honking. What can you do when you’re tempted to get impatient and honk? Relax, breathe deeply; mini-meditate; spark a discussion with any passengers you are carrying, maybe start a car game; turn on some of your favorite music or some other form of entertainment, like an audible book; roll down the windows and enjoy the fragrant fresh air; people-watch; enjoy the city scenery, the pretty sky; mindfully decide to enjoy the NOW of your life, no matter where you find yourself – yes, even in a traffic jam — rather than attempting a mad rush through life…to what? The grave! So you see how futile honking is as well as crummy.

Stop being an ass and start being a high caliber human being — someone who is evolving, someone who is civilized, someone who strives to make this world a better place. No one has any respect whatsoever for those who honk unnecessarily. ass2

 

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Nice, but noisy

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Gorgeous, breath-takingworld-class shoppingtop-rated restaurantscolorful history, booming businessfun events…and noisy: This is downtown Chicago, an exciting place, but darn loud. There are many noises that make up the sound of the city:

  • Rush hour traffic: Horns honking; traffic cops shouting and blowing whistles to direct traffic.
  • Sirens: Fire trucks, ambulances, police cars; some days (or nights) there’s more.
  • Buses: Overly-loud on-board announcements that one can even hear outside the bus; an almost deafening beeping sound as the bus lowers to let people on. Some bus stops even have a high-pitched beeping noise that pelts your ear drums while you wait for your bus.
  • Trains, underground and overhead: The els are really loud, especially when two trains pass; and the screeching sound of an el rounding a corner can be painful. Don’t try to talk on your phone while under an el.
  • The blaring sound that signals vehicles exiting from parking garages.
  • Police and military and traffic helicopters and sometimes helicopters related to movie making.
  • People: Loud phone talkers; “Streetwise” vendors; beggars; workers; rowdies (especially when drunk); disturbed people (like with turret’s); outdoor restaurants and bars; hoards of folks who pour into the city for big events; chants of protesters at rallies including the use of megaphones; hotel doormen blowing ear-piercing whistles to hail taxis.
  • Music: Pounding out of cars, sometimes so loud, the whole vehicle rattles; neighbors’ music, sometimes just the bass pounding through your wall; and the more pleasant strains of music festivals in the parks and street musicians. Seagulls make their own kind of music by the lakefront that sounds like the overly-excited screams of children playing.
  • Festivities: Fireworks (twice a week from Navy Pier) and seasonal parades.
  • In some neighborhoods, the sound of gunfire.
  • Construction: Noisy machinery, the back-up beeping sound (to me personally, my least favorite sound in all the world), the slamming of metal against concrete, the pounding of a gigantic drill into concrete. Sometimes when a job is left till the next day, gigantic metal plates are laid over the street; and when vehicles drive over these, it sounds like a shotgun and is jolting to one’s nerves. To get it done during low traffic, much construction happens in the city during the night, sometimes overnight. It’s extremely inconsiderate of the city to allow this, as downtown residents pay high prices to live there.

Now I want to mention a couple of noise problems that you, as a city resident, whether in Chicago or elsewhere, may have – and if you do, you can do something about it.

  • Delivery trucks: Men shouting and banging stuff around; when this happens in an alleyway, the noise is magnified.

If you live near a business that takes deliveries, you may have this problem. We did: They came at night when we were trying to relax. One can’t have the windows open to enjoy pleasant weather when this goes on, and that’s very unfortunate!

At one nearby business, deliveries used to take place at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday mornings. This was wholly inconsiderate and we complained to their management, including their corporate headquarters. Now they deliver later on Saturdays.

You too can take action if you have this problem. Management will listen, especially  if you boycott their store — and get your sleep-deprived neighbors to do likewise. It may be inconvenient for awhile, but it’s worth it so you can get your sleep and enjoy peace and quiet when it’s most important – and not have to feel angry anymore in your own home, which should be a refuge from the world.

We also complained to our alderman, and he was the one who got the municipal code regarding quiet hours established in Chicago – perhaps because we complained regularly! You too can make a change that will positively affect you and all your neighbors. Because businesses should be good neighbors!

  • Garbage pickup: Sometimes taking place at all hours, even in residential districts (illegal during official quiet hours, Chicago, which are 10:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.).

Do you live in a zoned residential area? Unless you relish being awaken often in the middle of the night by a seemingly callous waste management firm or enjoy wearing ear plugs to bed, be vigilant: Complain to the local police. Call 9-1-1 as opposed to 4-1-1 to be taken more seriously, plus 9-1-1 will send cops to your location whereas 4-1-1 would simply add it to a list of city problems. Usually the trash collectors will be gone before the cops show up, but at least your complaint has gone on record, and that counts for something when the powers that be look into your case. Eventually a police sergeant took on our case and told us to call him whenever it happened; he took our calls in the middle of the night; he worked with our alderman to make things right!

And let your alderman know as well as owners or managers at the offending business; call their corporate headquarters — chances are the executives aren’t even aware of the situation. If you persist, the city will get tough on these offenders and levy fines. We did this in our neighborhood, and now enjoy relative calm compared to what it used to be like when garbage trucks came often in the middle of the night.

If you have this problem, complain and get it fixed! Be the squeaky wheel. Get other local residents involved. Yes, it can be a hassle, but it’s worth it for your health and a less stressful existence.

As one downtowner remarked, “The city is a calliope of noise.” Those who don’t live downtown must wonder why anyone would. One good reason is this: A choice between being crammed in a crowded train or spending hours in a car on gridlocked highways to get to Chicago from the burbs, paying a high price for parking once you arrive —  if you can find parking — and eventually arriving back home late and dead-tired OR being mere steps from everything: Your office, shops, bars, theaters, restaurants, Buckingham Fountain, the lakefront, music fests in Millennium and Grant Park…For this and so much more that is hip and happening, city residents endure some noise.

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Galos Cave: a healthy hangout

Cover1Imagine this: it’s a cold winter-like day with the wind howling and possibly it’s snowing, the late afternoon is dimming quickly with the sun still going down fairly early…and you’re lying on a beach chair in a sandy cove, sheltered from the weather. No, you’re not vacationing in the tropics—you’re in the Galos Cave in Chicago!

Groupon offers a Galos Cave coupon where you can get several sessions for a fraction of the regular price. Even so, it’s an affordable adventure — and good for you. So what is Galos Cave all about? It’s about your health and well-being!

art1Apparently breathing in salt sea air has a wide range of benefits to the human body and one’s emotional state. Obviously, since it’s all about breathing the therapeutic salty air, the full host of respiratory problems — allergies, stuffed sinuses, asthma, to name a few — is said to benefit from hanging out at Galos Cave, which is designed to mimic lazing at a pristine beach beside a salty sea.

Art6Check out this page for a list of additional benefits, some of which may surprise you. What won’t surprise you is that it’s also soothing to your psyche. Galos Cave claims that a 45-minute session is as therapeutic as a day at the beach. This isn’t just any salt, however; the salt used in the atmosphere within Galos Cave is said to be harvested from the purest sources. Galos Cave is modeled after a Galos Cave in Poland where folks flock for health and beauty; the salt air is also said to do wonders for your skin.

It helps if you go onto Yelp and pick up a few pointers before visiting Galos Cave. Also realize that it’s in a far-flung northwest area of Chicago called Dunning, a long haul from downtown Chicago. However, when you get there, there’s free parking across the street. And here are some additional tips:

  • Get there well enough before your appointment to pay (do make a reservation; if they are full up, they cannot fit in walk-in’s), ditch your shoes and coats, and use the bathroom. If you get there late, you might have to wait for the next session — if there’s room — or be ushered in during a session-in-progress while those who got there on time and are already settled in may not appreciate the door opening and a bright light shining in nor the sound of you crunching around in the salt while you find a blanket (they do run out) and a lounge chair.
  • Before you enter the cave, you leave your shoes and jackets outside. There is someone on duty who watches over your stuff. Naturally you can bring your purse into the cave with you.
  • The cave is comfortable and warm enough to even wear short sleeves; you may even want to don a swimsuit. The advantage of this is that it’s recommended to play in the salt (it’s like a gigantic sandbox only with salt instead) and rub it on your body. Blankets are available in case you get chilly.
  • The salt is white. If you wear dark colors, you could emerge looking like a mess. Wear light colors if at all possible, especially white socks.
  • There is a corner for children with toys. When you make your reservation, you will want to check and see if there will be children present at the same time. You can ask for a time slot with or without children, your preference. Whole families visit the cave together!
  • The cave is intended to be a peaceful place. Some even drift to sleep when they turn down the lights. It’s not a place where rowdy drunks or chatterboxes would fit in comfortably. And you should turn off your cell phone ringer when you go in.

You will probably want to buy some of the delightful bath salts for sale at a very reasonable price at the front counter so you can continue your beauty and health regime at home.

If you’re hungry afterwards, you’re in luck: Right next door is a restaurant, the Jolly Inn, with a polish buffet that is out of this world.

 

Do one simple thing to keep your home more sanitary

 

Watch your step!
Watch your step!

Do you remove your shoes when you enter your home? You should. This advice is not just for days when it’s wet out there; households with babies, small children, pets or the home of your friend who just got beautiful new flooring or carpeting.

Have you considered what you step in as you hike through your days? Sure, you purposely dodge stepping in anything visibly disgusting, though that can happen. It’s the remnants, some even microscopic, of stuff your shoes pick up that ought to concern you when you return to your home each day, especially after walking the city. The possibilities are probably as countless as the various types of matter that makes up this world. In the city, even a glamorous city like Chicago, here are some possibilities:

  • Dog doo, pigeon poo
  • Cement dust from construction
  • Tar
  • Whatever can leak from vehicles
  • Pollution that’s settled
  • Food
  • Gum, sticky messy candy
  • Cigarettes, cigars
  • Alcohol, drugs
  • Litter, refuse, garbage
  • Trash can runoff/leakage
  • Sewer water
  • Dirty melted snow runoff
  • Puddles
  • Toxic waste
  • Dangerous materials
  • Hazardous substances
  • Dirt, mud
  • Fertilizer, pesticides
  • Blood
  • Germs
  • Phlegm, snot, saliva, vomit
  • Urine or feces, possibly human
  • Used tissues, toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, wipes
  • Remnants of a deceased creature, possibly human
  • Whatever was tracked and left behind by others’ footwear
  • Whatever was on animals’ paws or birds’ feet
  • Anything that may have been on the floor of a public restroom

Apologies for that utterly revolting list — but do you really want to track any of the above into your home? No. The remedy is easy:

  • Have a rough foot mat outside your door and wipe your feet well
  • Have another floor mat inside your door and wipe your feet again
  • Have a floor covering in your foyer where you put your footwear as you remove it; make this something you can easily trade off for another while you wash it
  • For comfort — and to eliminate any excuse to not do this every time you enter your home — put a seat just inside the front door
  • Set up a clean surface to set your belongings, like your bags and outerwear, while you’re removing your footwear
  • If there is more than one in your living quarters, have enough seats for everyone to sit and remove footwear if you enter together
  • Bonus: have a pair of slippers handy to change in to
  • If you could get guests who visit to do the same, that would be ideal; otherwise, wash the floor sometime shortly after they’ve come and gone

Also, after you’ve removed your footwear, wash your hands — before caressing the face of your loved one, hugging your kids, stroking your pet or preparing a meal. Oh, the things you unknowingly touched when you were out there in the world — but that’s a whole other story!

What to do in Chicago while waiting for spring

Winter trees
Barren wintry trees along Chicago’s Michigan Avenue

No one likes stinging cold winds, icy pathways or snow in April, much less discovering that crack in the bottom of your boot was for real and having to traverse with cold wet feet through all the slush between you and home. Winter wasn’t too awful in Chicago this year…but it has turned into a prolonged winter, making a lot of people unhappy. So here’s a list of just some of the unique and enjoyable events to help us Chicagoans live a full, exciting life this month, despite this seemingly endless winter:

Baconfest Chicago
Friday, April 6 & Saturday, April 7
University of Illinois at Chicago Forum (725 W Roosevelt Rd)

Love bacon? Go hog wild at Baconfest Chicago! Enjoy bacon-dominated meals Friday night and Saturday for lunch and dinner prepared by top Chicago chefs. Tip: Do not watch the cute little TV commercial that’s on lately of a family giving their piglet a bath!

C2E2: Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo
Friday, April 6 – Sunday, April 8
McCormick Place, South Building

Superstars, events and merchandise galore combine to make this a spectacular event. You can tote your kids along or party all night at this convention. Hooray for superheroes! Where would we be without them?!

Chicago White Sox Winter Hat Game
Saturday, April 7
Guaranteed Rate Field

Although Opening Day for the Sox in Chicago is Thursday, April 5, because winter hasn’t made its exit yet, on Saturday, April 7, showing up at the game can get you a nice winter knit cap which you can still wear this season: Offered to the first 15,000 fans who arrive at the ballpark for Saturday’s game. Learn some White Sox trivia here, compliments of the Chicago Public Library.

Chicago Cubs Opening Day
Monday, April 9
Wrigley Field

Yes, the wildly popular “Cubbies” can pull off a Monday home opener on a cold day in Chicago and still expect to draw crowds. At the time of this writing, tickets are still available. You might want to snatch them up while you can and notify your boss you’ll be absent Monday. Find out some trivia tidbits here that you may not have known, compliments of the Chicago Public Library.

One of a Kind Show
Friday, April 27 – Sunday, April 29
Merchandise Mart

Be there! The One of a Kind Show is held twice a year, in the winter (a great opportunity to score truly unique holiday gifts) and in the spring. This is a bountiful kaleidoscope of amazing goods, most of them handmade and indeed one-of-a-kind, from artists and artisans all over the world. There’s even unique food and entertainment to enjoy while you shop.

Tip: Try to go at a time when most people will be at work, because it gets very crowded. Also, check your coat or at least don’t bring a large bulky one to carry nor even a large bag, because that will make it harder to squeeze through the crowds. Honestly, though, this event is worth it.

National Poetry Month
Saturday, April 7 – Monday, April 30
Chicago Public Libraries

Calling all poets: April is National Poetry Month, and the Chicago Public Library celebrates it all month at various city libraries. Click here to see them all; there are many almost every day in April. There’s even a “poetry party.”

It culminates with a special one-day Poetry Fest for poets and poetry lovers at the Harold Washington Library Center from 10:00 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 28. Featured are: poetry readings by celebrity poets (Safia Elhillo and sam sax as well as Growing Concerns Poetry Collective), local poetry publications and organizations, rubbing elbows with editors and publishers, writing workshops that feature Chicago’s own poet celebs, award ceremonies and open mics – and you can even have a poet write a poem to your specifications while you wait.

Randolph Street Market Festival
Saturday, April 28 & Sunday, April 29
1341 West Randolph Street, Chicago

Love vintage? Then this is a must! Let’s hope we finally get warmer weather by April’s end for this indoor/outdoor gigantic sale. Shop till you drop while acquiring jaw-dropping antiques and vintage goodies from 10 a.m. till 5:00 p.m. both days. What do you desire? Clothing, accessories, artwork, furnishings, furniture, artwork, books and records, kid stuff…The possibilities are endless.

America’s Beauty Show
Saturday, April 28 – Monday, April 30
McCormick Place

It’s a beautiful world! End April on a high note, surrounded by beauty. Although this exhibition is geared toward professionals in this line of work, you can go too and be wowed by wall-to-wall beauty products. Hopefully your stylist will go…so you can benefit from the latest in cutting edge (no pun intended!) techniques and products. Be among the first to learn what the new image trends will be.

*****

As I type, I’m looking out the window at the snow blowing by (sigh). I leave you with hope, from poet Percy Bysshe Shelley: “O, wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?” Spring will come, and it will be glorious. Be patient, and in the meantime, have fun!

Spring trees
Blossoming foliage – Spring in downtown Chicago